Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Blessing of the Busted Pipe

My greenhouse is still in the box. Well, it's in multiple boxes. The single-digit temperatures and the generous downpour of rain played havoc with my plan, and I have not been happy about it. Every day, I have grumbled silently that the man has not come to dig the foundation and haul the gravel. I have stewed unhappily that it is hard to walk in my house for all the plants inside. This waiting for the greenhouse has not been easy!

As I waited, a wonderful blessing was silently unfolding.  The frozen pipes have all thawed, and today we found that one had burst from the frozen water. This is particularly wonderful because it is the hydrant in my garden. It has always been in the MOST inconvenient place, but I never had a reason to justify the expense and effort of moving it. Today, however, I have a serious flood occurring right where my greenhouse was going to be located. There is enough water rushing out of the broken pipe that knee-high garden boots are required for wading, and if not staunched soon, I will be building an ark. 

You may not remember this, but my planned greenhouse location was not even on my list of preferred sites. It was chosen (after a bit of unrequited whining) because of its proximity to the hydrant. The pipe that burst will need to be repaired and the prospective repairman suggested now would be a good time to change it. Indeed it would. I will still have a hydrant in my garden, but we will also run a water line to the spot that was FIRST on my list of preferred sites. 

The blessing of the broken water pipe! In any other situation, a broken pipe would not likely be welcome. Today, however, it is the best thing that could've happened, and I am giving thanks for the blessing that came disguised as adversity. 

Reasoning vs Reasoning: one word, two meanings

But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? (Luke 5:22 NASB)

The study of words provides such a depth of understanding that it's worth the effort. That is especially true for this verse. The English word "reasoning" is used twice in this verse, but there are two different Greek words used here. The first use says that Jesus was aware of their reasonings. The Greek word here is "dialogismos" and it means a man's inward thinking or reasoning within himself. This is a personal, private kind of deliberation done while one tries to sort out what is true. The second time, Jesus asked why they were reasoning in their hearts. The word used this time is "dialogizomai". As you can see, they are similar words. This word is the one that can be translated as "revolving in your mind".  It indicates a bringing together of different ideas and is sometimes translated arguing. 

There is a fine distinction between these two kinds of reasoning, and it is important to understand it because our society is filled with this very thing. In the first reasoning (dialogismos), a person is thinking or considering something and trying to sort out what is true. They are pondering. That is a good thing. In the second case (dialogizomai), several people who were pondering have thrown all their pondering together and revolved it around, hoping to bring some truth out of it. What happens most of the time is that the loudest voice, the most eloquent voice, presses their opinion and it becomes the opinion of the group. 

Rather than thinking and seeking truth for ourselves and turning to God for clarification, we turn to our peers in the group. What does that say about our response to the group? In seeking truth from the group rather than asking God for clarity, we have made the group a false god. Whew. That's scary, isn't it? 

This does not mean that all group work is bad, nor does it mean that seeking wise counsel is bad. It means we have to be deliberate and careful in our search for truth. When Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together", He certainly was saying that He would be with even a small group, but maybe He was also saying that, at least in times of seeking truth, a small group is, if not preferable, at least powerful. The committee consensus of the scribes and Pharisees that day threatened to lead them away from God all together. In the end, for most of the scribes and Pharisees in Israel at the time of Christ, it did. 

This not-always-perfectly-informed-committee-consensus type of reasoning is encouraged by our nonstop information media outlets and our social networking sites, and can lead us away from truth in very subtle ways. We need to be wise in our deliberations. 

Today, pray that we and our loved ones would think for ourselves, rather than automatically accept the reasonings around us. Pray too that we and our loved ones will turn to God for clarification rather than accept a group consensus about what is truth. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Jesus knows and understands

But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts? (Luke 5:22 NASB)

This verse offers great hope for those of us with a wavering faith. The Greek word epiginōskō, translated here as "aware of" is often translated as "recognize".  The dictionary definition includes "to recognize a thing to be what it really is", "to know accurately", "to perceive".  Any of those definitions apply here, but the one I like the best is "to understand".  Right at the beginning of His public ministry, we see that Jesus understands our questions, our confusion, our faith struggles. The questions of those religious leaders did not take Jesus by surprise, nor do our questions. The questions and difficulties with faith of our prodigal loved ones are not shocking or terrifying to Jesus. He knows all about them, and according to this wonderful word epiginōskō, He understands. 

We will soon see that Jesus not only understood the questions of the scribes and Pharisees but likely ordered His statements in such a way to expose their questions and provide them with answers. He was not one bit threatened by these intellectuals, nor was He impressed. His desire was to bring them from the head knowledge in which they took pride to a heart knowledge that infused every aspect of their lives. It's His desire for us as well. 

Pray today that neither we not our loved ones will use questions and uncertainty as an excuse to abandon faith, but will seek and listen for the Still Small Voice to provide the answers for which we long.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Rainbow

As I headed out my driveway on the way to work, I thought about a friend of mine who has a difficult decision to make. The right decision is not entirely clear but either way will have life-changing consequences. It's important to get this right. While I drove, I was praying for my friend and asking God to send wisdom, clarity, and a willingness to wait for God's best. That is hard to do, isn't it?

As I prayed, I began to think what I would do if I were in a similar situation, and how would I ever make a decision. I rounded a curve and up ahead was a beautiful rainbow. It was so unexpected that I pulled off to take a closer look. Something about the rainbow made me think of the verse, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

There's an answer for you. How would I ever make such a hard decision? I would ask my heavenly Father, who is going to be right there to help me, no matter what comes my way. 

Questions and Answers

The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" (Luke 5:21 NASB)

The news about Jesus had spread widely through Galilee. People had heard about His miracles and were coming to be healed. Other, like the scribes and Pharisees, were coming to see for themselves and to have firsthand knowledge with which to evaluate the stories they had heard. 

From the start, Jesus had not made a secret of his divinity, but He had focused more on ministry and teaching. This talk of forgiving sins was new and shocking. For scribes, who considered the name of God so holy that they washed their bodies before writing the name YHWH (not just once, but every time they wrote the name), saying something that sounded like a blasphemy was horrific. It is interesting to me that these men did not have the same response of those in Nazareth, who were filled with rage and very nearly threw Jesus off a cliff. Instead, these men questioned what they had heard. Who is Jesus? Who can speak such a blasphemy?  It sounded like a serious offense to God, but they did not make a move against Him. 

There are three ways to respond to Jesus's statement. Either you embrace it completely, reject it outright, or you seek verification of the truth of the statement. We see from this verse that, on this day, the scribes and Pharisees did not reject His words completely.  They were shocked and uncertain, but they didn't stone Him and they didn't walk out. 

What we, who are so familiar with the Word of God, sometimes forget is that there is nothing inherently wrong with questions, including questions about the truths of Christ and Scripture. Our Lord can handle questions and provide conclusive answers to those questions, as Jesus will demonstrate in the next few verses. The freedom to ask questions and find answers can make the difference between a life of faith and a life of doubt. 

Today, pray that our loved ones will seek until they find answers to all their faith questions and that God would provide competent assistance as they seek. Pray that they can find the answer to every question in Christ alone. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Running Water

How beautiful is this?  After the water adventure of the last few days, the warmer temperature today gave me a wonderful gift. My cold water in the kitchen thawed and is flowing again, as well as my outside faucet! This is especially wonderful because I have a crowd coming for a dinner meeting tomorrow night. The flowing water was not only critical for meal preparation but also to run the dishwasher! At just the right time, the ice melted, the water flowed, the meal was prepared, the dishes were washed. 

At just the right time. That's a lovely phrase. As I was thanking God for the great blessing of running water restored "at just the right time", I remembered Romans 5:6.  "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners." (Romans 5:6 NLT) It turns out the phrase "at just the right time" is used repeatedly in Scripture. I found one I particularly liked in Ecclesiastes.  "God gave us the ability to think about His world, but we can never completely understand everything He does. And yet, He does everything at just the right time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ERV)

God does everything at just the right time. It's not often the timing I would choose, especially when it comes to frozen pipes, but God's timing is perfect. He has a plan, He knows what He is doing, and He and His answers to all your prayers are right on time. You can count on it and rest in it. 

Relax. God is on His throne and right on time. 

The Scribes

The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" (Luke 5:21 NASB)

These scribes were an interesting sort. Their profession completely involved the Scripture. They were the ones who painstakingly copied Scripture, and there were strict rules for the process. Special ink, special hides to write on, special procedure. No two letters could touch. If they did, the entire manuscript had to be recopied. The presence of errors requiring correction could invalidate the entire manuscript and necessitate that it be completely redone. The rules might seem nitpicking, but they were designed to assure the accuracy of the reproductions. We can count on those manuscripts that have survived to be true to the 

Because of their familiarity with the word of God, the scribes were often teachers in the synagogues and functioned as attorneys in questions of the law. Those nitpicking rules designed to protect the law became greatly expanded, and they turned the law from something intended to protect and help the people into a heavy burden that made life infinitely harder. The problem was a matter of perspective.  The scribes worked with Scripture on a daily basis. They knew the words with their heads, but not as well with their hearts. As a result, the law became perverted into an instrument of condemnation instead of a tool to draw people to God. 

The scribes were saying by their actions in expanding the law that they knew better than God. In making all those extra rules, they were putting themselves on an equal footing with God. He makes rules?  So can we!  In all that rule-making, they became so short-sighted and focused on compliance that they missed the One who came to free them from the law! 

It's easy to have the same spirit of condemnation, isn't it?  When we see the sin in the lives of those around us, it is all too easy to count their sin and compare it to our own. We usually come out pretty well in that kind of comparison, don't we?  What we sometimes forget is that Jesus came because of all Sin equally - ours as well as the sin of others. 

Today, as we begin to pray for and focus on our loved ones, let's avoid the list of sins they might have accumulated. If any sins are mentioned before The Lord, make it our own. Let's confess for ourselves and pray that our loved ones will be drawn to the Divine Relationdhip only Christ can Bring. When hearts are changed by the Spirit, behavior is sure to follow. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Water Races

The first Tursday night of every month is the regular Blue Springs Board of Aldermen meeting. It's at 6:00, so, after work, I had to drive home carefully just under the speed limit (as is my habit because I am seriously against speeding, just so you know)  and race around like some kind of wild thing trying to get all my buckets and pitchers filled with hot water to carry to the barn and water all the animals. I would fill one bucket up and haul it dripping across the hardwood floor, out the front door, and into the wagon. While I was carrying one bucket, the second one would be filling. One after another. The entire time I was praying. "Lord, you've got to help me get these buckets filled so these animals can get some water before I have to leave."  I was filling and praying as fast as I could go. Looking back, it's really remarkable how quickly those buckets filled, especially since my cold water in the kitchen froze mid-drip last night.  Since I had the meeting and wasn't sure how long it would last, I filled the water buckets and Bill the Magnificent emptied them into the waterers. 

This animal water-hauling project is really a lot of trouble and it's a lot of work. The luster is off the project. I'm ready to be warm and I want to simply turn on the faucet and get water. I don't want to drip the water on the hardwood; I don't want anymore leaves in my sink. I don't want to do it, but I will, and I will do it without hesitation simply because it must be done. It's my responsibility and it's the right thing to do. The end is in sight, and I plan to see this all the way through. 

It's hard, this keeping on with a difficult task that has stopped being fun, isn't it?  The easiest thing to do would be to bail out. Call someone to get the livestock and just sell out on the spot. I know all that, but for now, it's mine to do, and the doing of it speaks volumes about my character. Watching calves frolic in the summer pasture says nothing about who I am. Hauling water in seven degree weather at 4:30 in the morning speaks volumes. I don't really care whether anyone ever knows I did this hard task or not. God knows and I know, and THAT is why it matters. 

Life is a wonderful gift and there are more good times than we can possibly deserve. Every once in a while, though, life is just hard. The choices we make when it is hard reveal who we are, not just to God and to ourselves, but also to the world. When faced with a difficult and unpleasant task, what do your choices reveal about you?  Do you go the distance? Do you find opportunities to rejoice even in adversity?  Be sure the choice you make reflects the person you intended to be. 

Revolving Minds

The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" (Luke 5:21 NASB)

We will look further at this verse, but the thing that strikes me today is this whole idea of "beginning to reason".  The Greek word here is "dialogizomai" and means to "reckon up" several different ideas and discuss them or to "revolve in one's mind".  I do that sometimes, don't you?  It's pretty common to get an idea in your mind, whirl it around a while until you come to some sort of conclusion about your idea, then (because it's been bouncing around your synapses for a while) mistakenly accept it for truth. That's what the scribes and Pharisees did. When Jesus pronounced the man's sins forgiven, one man after another chimed in. Pretty soon, a whirlwind of opinions was spinning around and, as a group, they pulled out a consensus. It was a dialogue and they cobbled some of their words together and made up their minds. They had valid questions, don't get me wrong, but questions are not the same as verified truth. Jesus, however, was about to answer their questions and clarify truth. 

There is nothing wrong with group discussion. There is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion. The danger comes in confusing opinion with fact and basing life decisions on opinion rather than truth. What if the man on the stretcher had listened to the Scribes and Pharisees that day, accepted their reasoning as fact, and rejected what Jesus said about forgiving his sins? He would likely have stayed on his stretcher. 

As you pray and wait for God to move in the heart of your loved ones, you may hear all kinds of Pharisaical reasoning. "There's only so much God can do" is one such comment that is like fingernails on chalkboards to me. Those speakers must never have been pursued by the Hound of Heaven. What god do they serve?  Jehovah can handle it. Today, let's take hold of the God of Scripture, El Shaddai, and leave the "dialogizomai" behind. Hold to the truth we know as expressed in Scripture and the promises it contains. 

He is able to deliver. That comes straight from Scripture, and if we can't count on that, what else is there?  Trust it. Trust Him. 

Today, pray that the One who can forgive sin will wade into our circumstances and do all He can do. Pray for deliverance and healing. Pray for transformation. Pray for change that lasts. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Hauling Water

You can't live without water. Neither can cows or horses or goats or chickens. I could give you a mountain of statistics about it, but I'm out of statistics right now!

Due to a severe miscommunication, I am dealing with a small crisis. Frozen pipes at the barn. All my animals have to have water, so before work this morning, I took my big walking stick and broke up the ice in all the waterers, poured hot water in, and got everyone situated for the day. 

With today's low temperatures, I've dreaded the evening trip to the barn all day long, but it had to be done. You guessed it. All the automatic waterers are more frozen (if that is possible) than this morning. I would have used my hammer to break up the ice this evening, but it is in my truck and the door is frozen shut. There is just so much frozenness I can deal with in one day, and I've reached my limit for today, so I'm back to my big walking stick with the very cute green tree frog carved at the end. The frog has taken a beating tonight, but I have once again broken up the ice. The tree frog didn't do all the work, though. The ice was so thick that I have alternated beating the ice with pouring boiling water on it. I've had quite a one-woman production line going here tonight! The boiling water worked great, but hauling it in my garden wagon to the barn is a perilous project, and it has taken gallons and gallons. (Read that many trips back and forth). Have I mentioned that it is 14 degrees outside?!?!

At last, I have had plenty of exercise for today, possibly burned a gazillion calories, and all the animals have fresh water. They may burn their tongues if they don't wait a few minutes, but no one is going to be dehydrated tonight! You may be wondering why I have worked so hard, but chickens can't cross the road for a cup of cocoa. Neither can the rest of my crew. Water is vital. They can't survive without it, and dehydration in these temperatures can be deadly. 

The H2O I've been hauling tonight is critical for life, but the Living Water that our Lord provides is even more essential.  

"Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37, 38 NASB)

What a wonderful thing! Rivers of living water flowing forth from those who love Jesus to provide life-giving refreshment to all who thirst.  It is precious liquid indeed, and no hauling is required, so drink deep, friends!

Waiting That's Worth It

Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." (Luke 5:20 NASB)

Let's put ourselves in the place of these four men for a moment. They had watched the man on the stretcher from the time his paralysis began, hoping he would improve. They were clearly trying to help, so they had likely helped him throughout his illness. When they heard about Jesus, a little seed of hope had begun to grow. When they heard he would be teaching in Capernaum, hope emerged full grown. I don't suppose they were worried about his sins being forgiven. They had sacrifices for that. What they were hoping for was physical healing. 

Their hoping became action when they gathered up that stretcher-bed and carried him to Jesus. After the near-miss of the crowded doorway and the excitement of the rooftop entrance, their expectation must have been astronomical. They were looking to Jesus to see what He would do.  

Jesus did they last thing they were expecting. He forgave the man's sin, then got into a heated discussion with the Pharisees. They must have been thinking, "Wait a minute!! What about his paralysis? He still can't move!"  Just for a moment, they must have grumbled, "A lot of good it did to bring him to Jesus!"

They grumbled because all they knew of their story was the events of verses 19 and 20. They could not see what would happen by the time verses 24 and 25 rolled around. They only saw part of the story.  The part they were seeking was just around the corner. 

What if they had said, "If that's all you are going to do, Jesus, we are out of here!"?  It's likely there would have been no healing for their friend that day. It may have been surprise or some experience with the ways of Jesus, but for whatever reason, they all held still and waited. As they waited, it became clear that Jesus had never lost sight of the paralyzed man. Jesus had planned to heal all along, but He would use the healing to demonstrate His authority and the power of God within Him to all those gathered. 

Imagine the joy of those men as their disappointment proved temporary! Jesus did heal! They would not be carrying  a stretcher back home that day. Their friend was jumping and laughing with great joy. They all were!

Perhaps you have waited for God to move for such a long time. Maybe it seems He has done everything except what you have asked Him to do for your loved one. It could be that you have "a few more verses to go".  Maybe He wants to accomplish a greater purpose and a more complete victory. Don't give up hope, dear ones. Hold firm until all the healing is done. 

Pray today that we will persevere until every one of our loved ones has experienced the healing only Jesus can bring.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jack Gets Arrested

The little visiting horse we call Jack is a rambler. He stayed with my horses almost every day, pestered them until they were nearly crazy, and slept in a stall with one of them for weeks. He ate in my barn and played with my son. I was beginning to like him.

The problem is that Jack doesn't respect boundaries, and that finally got him in real trouble. I think it might be a game to him, but Jack likes to get on his belly and scoot under the fence. I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself. It's a pretty good trick, as far as tricks go, but it gets him out of the pasture, which is not a good trick. 

The latest trouble started a few days ago. Someone came to my door and offered to help get my pony up. I explained that I don't have a pony and asked where it was. As usual, Jack had slithered under the fence like a snake and was in the road again. There's no catching Jack, so the best thing to do is try to chase him into the barn and rope him. The volunteer and I headed out to start the round up and Jack saw us coming. Fast as lightening, he was under that fence and acting as innocent as a lamb. I got in my car to head back home. He looked up about that time and thought the coast was clear. Under the fence again, and out towards the road!

That did it for me! I tried to contact his owner without success, so I called the sheriff's office, hoping to get animal control to help me catch him. It turned out animal control doesn't do horses. The deputy was really nice. He likes little horses, and he offered to come help. When he arrived, Jack demonstrated his trick several times. The nice officer just shook his head. "Somebody's gonna get killed if he doesn't get out of the road," he said. I just nodded. I'd said the same thing about a jillion times already. 

I don't guess they issued a warrant, but Jack kinda got arrested after that. His owners were summoned, they came and picked him up again, and have "restrained him".  I don't know what that entails, and don't want to know. Suffice it to say, Jack's on house arrest now. 

He has a nice family of his own. He also had nice horse friends at my farm, a big pasture, warm stalls, and good feed. None of that suited Jack, though. He is always looking for what's on the other side of the fence. 

I've known some people like that, haven't you? They just don't want rules. It never works out too well for them, either. Boundaries, like my fences, are there for a reason. Jack seems to think they squelch his freedom, but, like traffic laws, they are there to keep everyone safe, including him. 

The next time you are tempted to push a limit of some kind, think about poor Jack, his snake-slithering fence escape, and his house arrest. That boundary might look pretty good after all. 

First things first

Seeing their faith, He said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you." (Luke 5:20 NASB)

In Luke 4, we read the story of Jesus in  Capernaum at the synagogue, when the demon possessed man began to shout, "I know who you are - the Holy One of God." At that point, Jesus silenced him and cast out the demon. In this instance, Jesus has chosen both His moment and his crowd. There were Pharisees and teachers of the law from all over Israel present.  It would be easy to miss this fact, but His timing was divinely inspired, as He had just returned from His prayer retreat in the wilderness, and the events were most certainly divinely orchestrated. 

He looked down at the man on the stretcher and said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven". With those words, He declared Himself God, for only God can forgive sin. It was not an accident. He said it intentionally, fully understanding both how they would react and the firestorm that would ensue. In a way, the battle lines between Jesus and the religious establishment were drawn here.

There is not a recorded request from the men who lowered the stretcher nor from the man on the stretcher. They left the decision about what to do to Jesus. Jesus assesses the situation and deals with the most pressing need first - forgiveness of sin. He will also heal his physical need, but the sin need came first. 

Remember the leper? He asked for healing and he received healing. He only received healing, but the greater gift of forgiveness is not mentioned. I wonder... Perhaps in our quest to have specific prayers that tell Jesus what we want Him to do, we miss a vital part of the process when we fail to invite Him to assess the situation and do what is best. Here it is again. The problem of "Thy will be done."  I admit it. I like to pray a prayer that is specific enough to have a recognizable answer. Those prayers have their place. In situations of desperation, however, the relinquishment of control involved in asking God to do whatever He sees best is very powerful. We would do well to invite Him to do what's best from the beginning, don't you think?  

Today, pray the prayer that never fails, "Thy will be done", for ourselves and our loved ones. Invite our Lord to assess the situation and do whatever is needed. Don't offer Him any guidelines or any limits. Trust that His will and plan are for good and not evil (Jer 29:11). He is able to deliver, and He can handle our loved ones, as well.